VET’S DIARY: Winter clipping can be a useful management tool

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Christmas festivities are now over. I hope everyone has had a peaceful one.

Having realised over the years that the only way to stop working is to go away from the area, I was looking forward to a break with my wife’s family in Bedfordshire but there were still horses, cats and lame dogs to look at whilst there.

On returning home, my sheep were to scan and clip for winter housing.

Many think clipping in winter is an odd thing to do but I find it a useful management tool.

It allows me to see which ewes are losing condition and alter their rations accordingly.

As the ewes approach lambing, they are less stressed and more comfortable on warm days.

Clipping also encourages the ewe lambs to eat more and they tend to thrive between Christmas and lambing.

Last autumn presented us with an unusal disease pattern for this part of the country.

On a number of farms, lungworm caused severe problems and if not treated early enough, increased the risk of pneumonia during November and December.

There were numerous reports of apparently healthy cattle being wormed after purchase or housing which then suffered respiratory symptoms or even death as a result of the now dead lungworm causing a severe reaction in the lungs.

The lesson from this is to worm with a long acting product earlier in the autumn and be vigilant for any symptoms.

Looking forward, cows tended to be in good condition during the autumn when I was pregnancy testing them.

Now is the time to get their condition right for calving.

Don’t leave it too late to reduce weight if they are too fat or feed extra if they are too thin. Both of these can lead to calving problems.

On some farms the forage has been so good it’s causing the cows to scour.

Adding extra fibre in the form of straw will firm them up and improve how they utilize the feed, plus it will keep the sheds cleaner. Conversely too much straw can cause impaction as the cattle fail to digest it.

Scan results are starting to come in for the lowland flocks.Let’s hope you all get what you want, not too many sets of triplets, mainly pairs and a few singles.

Here’s hoping for a prosperous and happy 2015.